Crossing the Border to Art - Maria de Los Angeles' Story of Coming to America
This is the personal account of Maria de Los Angeles' journey to the United States.
I am the oldest of eight. I was old enough to know that we had crossed the border from Mexico without documents, but too young to realize that undoing this would be difficult. Our trip to Los Angeles, California culminated with pineapple pizza dinner that our aunt provided, while we waited for our parents to cross the border through the desert. We crossed over through the border checkpoint, yet, I am positive as a cultural producer and visual artist, that perception can be transformed.
A country can change their minds about people who are here illegally. The Dream Act gave everyone the knowledge of us - young, educated, undocumented people, brought to the USA by our parents. DACA gave us temporary protection from deportation and work permits. However, Obama deported more people than any other president in history. Now Trump has more enforcement and the wall on his mind, but as we continue to grow up, political discussions over us ensue.
Due to my family managing our farmland in different states, we moved on average every year. In 1999, I was eleven years old and in second grade, but on my arrival to Santa Rosa, the USA school system enrolled me in seventh grade. The first few years of school where difficult but I made it my goal to learn and art guided me through it.
I came to NYC after completing an Associate degree in Fine Arts from SRJC to attend Pratt Institute. In 2013, I graduated with my BFA in painting and went to the Yale University MFA program graduating graduated in 2015. Now, I am teaching Painting and Drawing at The Pratt Institute. The most exciting project now my upcoming group show with Los Angeles County Museum in December and my exhibition at the Schneider Museum of Art in Ashland, Oregon opening January 2018. I will have also a few shows here in Jersey City and NYC. I am co-curating a show at John Jay College that opens in Feb. The core concept is "borders".
My artwork explores social constructs about citizenship, legality, and cultural identity. If anyone wants to read more about my work, there are a few articles including one in NYMAG from 2015. Being an artists makes me happy and is one of the gifts I received from my parents moving here, not that I would not be one in Mexico, since art is very much a part of its identity. I know that I am free. Not having my papers does not take away my freedom; it's just an inconvenience on my path towards making art and seeing it. I believe it makes me a better artist because I seek freedom and beauty through two cultural heritages and ways of being.
I am 29 years old now and live in Jersey City Heights with my boyfriend. He is also an artist and every morning we have coffee together at Modcup.
Photo provided by Cheyenne Coleman